"Larry the Lock" is an illustrated children's book produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District to educate the public about the locks and dams on the rivers and the important mission they serve to support navigation around the Pittsburgh region and beyond.
To download a full, printable PDF version of the book, you can find it on the DVIDS website here!
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers illustration & story by Ashley Daugherty
Hi everyone, I am Larry the Lock.
My technical name is Allegheny River Lock and Dam 2
but all my friends call me Larry.
I live in Pittsburgh, across the river from the
neighborhoods of Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, and Etna.
I have an exciting job that few people know about. For example,
some people think I help prevent floods, but I don’t. I’m actually an elevator.
Well, a giant water elevator!
The Army Corps of Engineers built me where the Allegheny River
has a significant drop in water levels. That way, I can help boats and
other watercraft go from one water level to the other smoothly.
Here’s how I do it. First, boats enter my chamber.
Then, depending on the boat’s direction, I either fill or empty the water.
So, if a towboat goes downstream, I open the valve near
my front gate and slowly let water out. When I do this, the water
in my chamber lowers, bringing the boat down.
I open the valves near my back gate if a boat travels upstream. I have
two valves on this side, one in my wall and one in the ground. The gate valve
functions the same way on both sides, but the ground valve lets water in
through an underground pipe called a ‘culvert.’ The water from the culvert
slowly fills my chamber, like a bathtub, raising the boat until it can smoothly sail out.
The river water flowing over the dam beside me causes a ‘boil.’
This boil can be very dangerous. If a boat travels over the dam into the
boil, the people can be hurt. That’s why I’m here. I allow watercraft
and people to travel around the dam safely.
Every day I see something different, but I see a lot of towboats
transporting barges, which are big, long, flat-bottomed boats filled
with trade goods. Trade goods are things like coal, rocks and minerals.
Barges can’t move independently, so a towboat has to help them.
One towboat can push up to 15 barges at a time.
A single barge can hold the same amount of
material as 58 big trucks.
I also help recreational boats, ships and smaller watercraft
such as kayaks travel up and down the river. Sometimes even the dinner boat
comes through. In addition, people often use my pool for fishing
and swimming near the shore.
I don’t do all this work by myself. Thankfully,
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District manages
me and has many great people working at my facility.
I have a lockmaster in charge of all the critical decisions.
Lock operators help me when I have to raise or lower
the water in my chamber. They are the ones who open
my gates and make sure everyone stays safe on their boats.
I also have mechanics. They give me regular maintenance and
fix minor repairs to ensure I’m always operating at my best.
Sometimes when I need major repairs, civil engineers will come and fix me.
I need quite a bit of attention because of my age.
I opened in 1934, almost 90 years ago!
Some neighboring locks were built in the early 1920s
and we all still get the job done!
Being a lock is fun. I help people safely navigate
the river every day, so they can get from one place
to another in a more earth friendly and money saving way than driving.
I hope everyone remembers to be safe on the water.
Make sure you always stay out of my restricted zones
and wear a lifejacket near the water!
The Pittsburgh District provides expertise to help the region and the Nation meet
water resources development, environmental and other engineering needs.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' involvement in works “of a civil nature”
dates back almost to the origins of the United States. Over the years, as the
Nation’s needs have changed, so have the Army’s Civil Works missions.
Those missions today fall into four broad areas:
Environmental management and restoration
Response to natural and human-made disasters
Engineering and technical services.